The late PM Meles Zenawi, Google picture
Following the announcement by the government in Ethiopia of the death of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the cyber world witnessed heated debates over his legacy. I could identify three major lines of arguments or groups of people. One, there are several people who compassionately argue that the death of Meles is roughly equivalent to the death of Ethiopia's and Africa's future. They labeled the late minister a national hero, a genius, courageous, developmental, and irreplaceable. These group of people admire his initiatives to: make basic education accessible, provide village-level health services, construct asphalted roads in all parts of the country, build large-scale hydroelectric dams, champion the free use of mother tongue and culture, strengthen pan-Africanism, and fight for Africa and the developing world when it comes to climate change and development aid.
Two, there are others who vehemently oppose the first line of argument; they take it that the premier is indeed the Century's curse on Ethiopia. They mentioned a lot awful accomplishments the minister oversaw over the last two decades and hence, they consider his 'passage' as a real blessing that will neutralize the curse. They point their fingers at him for his: ill-engineered federal system that actually aimed at national disunity and tension, undisclosed border deals with our neighbors, dysfunctional higher education system, carelessness to our national image, disrespect for Ethiopian history and culture, contempt to his colleagues and the Ethiopian people, phobic behavior to media and the opposition, campaign against scholars, inability to make a difference between his private/personal views and his stances as a national leader, bogus interference in religion, and his excessive abuse of national security force for his party advantages.
At the middle ‘reside’ others who seem to apply the "do not curse the dead" principle. They seem to have an unfavorable attitude towards Meles but for moral and ethical and/or cultural grounds, they do not want to throw out nasty terms against the deceased. They try to ‘mediate’ between the aforementioned groups of people.
To me, expressing own feelings and thoughts about virtually everything is one which defines humanity. If we are responsible citizens, we need to carefully attend to what is happening in and to Ethiopia and then react properly. What is bad is getting crazy about fellows who seem to hold different views. One could see terrible insults and curses on Facebook, for instance. That interferes with our natural, God-given right. Let everyone 'air' her/his thoughts and the only thing we need to do against terrible arguments is to reply, by resorting to the power of reason, evidence, and decency. That is it. Everyone has the right to curse or bless the late Meles.
To me, the saga about his legacy will lead us nowhere. We better focus on the mechanisms by which we can 'exploit' this opportunity. I do not however mean that we do not have to worry about meticulously recording what Meles did to and against us; we have to do it but at a later stage. Perhaps a more fruitful question to raise now is: What will happen ahead? This question is as big as titanic and as smooth as silk. It is a bit hard, even to accomplished experts, to make a political prognosis about Ethiopia. A lot issues are simply unexplainable. It is easier to translate the question into what we would like to see in the near future.
I have a short list of expectations from the current/future leadership of the country. My expectations are neither original nor huge; they are few and cost nothing if one thinks of national interest. If Ethiopia is to prosper and prosper, the government must do the following irrespective of conditions.
- Unconditionally release ALL political prisoners
- Retreat from churches and mosques
- Ensure national reconciliation and unity
- Involve all Diaspora Ethiopians in nation building
- Create a genuine and lasting political space for the opposition
- Form an all-encompassing transitional government after EPRDF completes its term
- Then create all the institutional capacities needed to run a genuinely free and fair election
- Fix the crisis the higher education sector is engulfed in
- Make a clear distinction between party and government apparatus and properties
- Create an environment where all nations and nationalities ease their tensions
- Allow media to flourish once again, and in summary
- Accept that Ethiopia needs and deserves real changes
Ethiopia will excel!